Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Now and then

I don’t usually spend a lot of time comparing the differences in my children’s childhoods to mine own. I feel I can pride myself on being a fairly progressive mother. My parents were too. Neighborhood kids collected around my dad as he showed off Kodak’s newest photographic gadget and he was very excited about the upcoming computer age. My mom has spent some significant time on senior singles web sites and is a pro at playing computer solitaire. I still call her for refresher on Excel functions. But really – I have a blog, an Etsy shop, an interior design web site, a Facebook page (and both of my college kids “friended” me), I have had the same email address for over 10 years and I can video chat with my daughter. I am a firm believer that progress is great and vastly improves our quality of life.

A few weeks ago I made the decision to let my younger kids buy Nintendo DS’s with their own Christmas and birthday money. (Anything they can do autonomously and in one place – can’t be too bad.) Shortly after the purchases, the kids each had a friend over. The friends brought their DS’s. Generally - adding two kids to my two kids means I can plan on an appropriate volume increase. That day it was oddly silent so I had to creep upstairs to investigate. The girls were shoulder to shoulder on their bellies with their DS games open – Pictochatting – with the boys who were in the other room – sprawled toe to toe. (They’re guys.) For those of you who don’t know, Pictochat is a DS function that is like short wave texting but written with a stylus on a screen. Unlike texting, this can only be done with another DS that is within 65 feet. It seemed pointless to me when my kids sat across the dining room table Pictochatting with each other, explaining its finer points to me. But then I remembered what we were all excited to be the first kids in the neighborhood to have.

Some things remain the same – kind of. A day playing in the snow with the girl next door requires different equipment these days, (the Red Ryder sleds pictured are actually decorations now) , but it still takes about 20 minutes worth of preparation to get out of the door and the result tends to be similar to what I remember. (Except that this snowman’s face came from the neighbor’s prefabricated kit-in-a-bucket.)

Recently, I was forced to marvel at some of the more significant differences in how we now need to communicate with our savvy kids when my 8 year old was diagnosed with ADHD. Both his doctor and I tried our best to explain it to him while in her office but I could tell from his face that he didn’t quite get it. My son knows about ADD so I tried to explain the differences. A look of revelation came upon his face. “So you mean,” he said, “that I have ADD but it’s in HD!?” Exactly.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Sister Turf

Last week I missed a call from my sister. This is not too unusual. Being sisters - we call for no reason and leave 20 minute long messages, call when we need "company" driving from one place to another, or call to rant about a significant other or any given child. It's all allowed. We are also allowed to ignore calls if we know at that moment that we can not give it our full attention. (After all - there's probably a 20 minute message waiting that will sum up the purpose for the call.)

Anyway, the particular call I missed was to inform me that she had been in a car accident - again. (Another story.) I listened to the message, when I discovered it, while shopping in a craft store with my 10 year old daughter finding supplies for an invention project. Here was my sister's voice telling me in detail about the "idiotic woman" and everything that had transpired at the fateful intersection. She was fine. She was waiting for the wrecker to tow her car and she needed "company" while waiting.

In the tape/glue/adhesive isle of the craft store, I stopped dead, my hands and feet went numb, my vision tunneled and my ears began to ring. Just as it was registering with me that she was okay - my phone rang in my hand. It was my sister. She was driving somewhere in her, apparently, still drivable Prius and needed to be entertained in transit. As she described in detail, (again - because she knows I don't always listen to her entire 20 minute long voice mails), how the accident happened, I regained feeling in my feet and hands, put my glasses on to adjust my vision and yawned to stop the ringing in my ears and reminded my self to wonder what life without my sister would have been like and what it would be like now.

First - I blame her for a lifetime of inappropriate boyfriends on my part. When we were in early high school, I had a crush on a really nice, clean cut boy from our neighborhood. He would wait for me to get off the bus and walk me home. One afternoon, I came home late from an after school event, to find my sister and that nice boy strolling around our neighborhood together. Somehow it never dawned on me that while he waited for and walked me home - he also waited for and walked my sister home. Duh. Never again would I allow that to happen. Thus began the parade of long haired, cigarette smoking bad boys that she could openly disdain and NEVER consider stealing.

Later in our teens my sister and I had our own version of "What Not To Wear". We would go to the mall together, go into a clothing boutique and pick out outfits for each other that the RULES said - we had to try on. Here are some factors that set the tone for this game. My sister played clarinet, was in the German Club and listened to Sammy Davis Jr. I had a smoking lounge pass, had friends that were drop outs and I listened to Frampton Comes Alive over and over. She found herself modeling extreme bell bottoms, shirts that incorporated embroidery and/or tassels and clogs. I was forced into powder blue suits, (it was the 70's), blouses that had some sort of bow-like neck closures and lapel pins. We would crack up in front of the mirrors and then go get a slice and a Coke.

Ten years ago our family converged on a hospital in upstate NY. Our dad was dying. It was the determined that we would be split into duos that would take shifts around the clock so that he was never alone. My sister and I were a duo. We were allowed into intensive care for only 15 minutes of each hour. For the other 45 minutes of each hour we would read, eat, watch tv, eat, call our spouses and eat. My sister would keep me company in the restroom while I pumped breast milk, intended for my six month old, and dumped it down the drain. I listened to her talk about her marriage failing. We are the only people in each others lives that it is safe to be inappropriately irreverent with.

My sister has a photo hanging in her bathroom. It was taken of a 3 year old her and a 1 1/2 year old me. Our dad took it so it is taken from an adult vantage and we are looking up to him. I am partially turned toward my sister - hanging on to her hand with both of mine. I always look at that picture, (every time I am seated in her bathroom), and think how deceptive it is. NEVER was I that dependant on my sister.

Our differences are vast yet our similarities tend to dominate our relationship. Maybe because we are only 1 1/2 years apart, (she's OLDER), and each other's only sister - our lives are tied in ways that don't require geographic proximity or even daily contact. Conversations tend to pick up where we left off, no matter how long ago they were started and we totally kick butt in Pictionary because with one single drawn line - we know what the other is thinking. (That used to drive our first husbands nuts.) For the few moments that I was listening to her phone message - I had to consider life with out her. Maybe that photo in her bathroom isn't so deceptive.
Last night I missed another call from my sister She was spending 3 plus hours having gel nails applied. Next time I might write about my brother.